The classmate of a missing Pearland teenager was charged with murder after officials said he admitted beating the 18-year-old to death and dumping the body in a Fort Bend County field.
Hermilo Moralez, 19, was considered a person of interest early in the investigation into Josh Wilkerson's disappearance shortly after classes on Tuesday.
Moralez would offer authorities several versions of what happened that afternoon after Wilkerson gave him a ride home after school. A fight later began, he said, when Wilkerson made a pass at him — an account officials say they doubt.
"The suspect claims Josh began to come on to him in a sexual manner and that's how the fight started, but we don't believe that information is very credible," said Lt. Onesimo Lopez, a Pearland police spokesman.
Wilkerson's relatives could not be reached for comment on Thursday. At a news conference earlier, they thanked those who helped search for the teen's body, television stations reported.
According to neighbors and friends, Moralez is a friend of Wilkerson's sister's boyfriend. Wilkerson and Moralez knew each other; the deceased teen had given Moralez a lift in his truck before.
Wilkerson was a quiet teenager from a private family and was "solid in his faith," a neighbor said.
Brazoria County court records show Pearland police spotted Moralez on Tuesday walking along a ditch near the 500 block of Broadway, the area where Wilkerson's Toyota Tacoma pickup was later found.
Identifying himself only as Milo, Moralez told police officers that he had last seen Wilkerson at their school.
The officers noticed Moralez seemed nervous and shook during questioning. One of the officers saw what appeared to be a prominent, fresh scratch running along the left side of his face from his eyebrow to his neck. When asked about the scratch, Moralez told police that he didn't know it got there, according to the court records.
Three charges filed
During later questioning, Moralez eventually gave investigators his full name but refused to provide his address. He was taken into custody and charged with failure to identify himself - the first of three criminal charges that would filed against him within the next several hours.
His accounts of the events leading to Wilkerson's death varied, according to the court records.
At first, he said Wilkerson offered him a ride in the Toyota Tacoma after school Tuesday and a fight began. It ended when Moralez grabbed a rod-like piece of wood and began striking Wilkerson with it.
"Hermilo said that he had beaten Joshua pretty bad and (he was) bleeding from the nose and mouth. Hermilo described what happened to Joshua and (being) very violent and claiming that Joshua was messed up," the court document stated.
Moralez said he then climbed into the pickup and drove away, leaving Wilkerson behind, records show. He parked the truck next to a shopping center and threw Wilkerson's shoes and backpack into a trash bin, records show.
As the search for Wilkerson continued, Moralez then refused to tell the detectives where Wilkerson's body could be found.
"At one point, Hermilo stated that Joshua kind of 'melted' into the ground and is gone," according to the court records.
Moralez spoke with a woman that he lived with, then led investigators late Wednesday to an area near the dead end of FM 518, court records show.
When one investigator started to climb a fence at the site, Moralez tried to grab the officer's pistol from its holster, police said. He was restrained and returned to the jail in Pearland. A second charge was filed against him for attempting to take the weapon, authorities said.
Detectives could see that Wilkerson's body, with hands and feet both bound, had been partially burned, according to court records.
Moralez would later tell officials that the two were at his father's home when Wilkerson was killed, the court document said. Moralez said he beat Wilkerson on the back patio near a barbecue pit and threw the wooden rod into a field next to the house, according to the court records.
Blood found on patio
Police obtained a search warrant for the home and field next door. They found a large amount of blood on the patio and a wooden rod with blood on one end in the field.
Moralez is being held without bail on the murder charge.
In May, Moralez was arrested by a Brazoria County Sheriff's deputy and charged with misdemeanor harassment. In that case, he was listed as a citizen of Belize, a district court clerk said Thursday
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